“Oh! What is it?” cried the girl, springing to his side.
He pointed with shaking index finger to the bird within the cage.
“Dead!” he said brokenly, “Dead, Niece Louise! Poor old Jerry’s dead—and him and me shipmates for so many, many years.”
“Oh!” screamed the girl, grasping his arm. “You are Cap’n Abe!”
After all, when she considered it later, Louise wondered only that she had not seen through the masquerade long before.
From the beginning—the very first night of her occupancy of the pleasant chamber over the store on the Shell Road—she should have understood the mystery that had had the whole neighborhood by the ears during the summer.
She, more than anybody else, should have seen through Cap’n Abe’s masquerade. Louise had been in a position, she now realized, to have appreciated the truth.
“You are Cap’n Abe,” she told him, and he did not deny it. Sadly he looked at the dead canary in the bottom of the cage, and wiped his eyes.
“Poor Jerry!” her uncle said, and in that single phrase all the outer husk of the rough and ready seaman—the character he had assumed in playing his part for so many weeks—sloughed away. He was the simple, tender-hearted, almost childish Cap’n Abe that she had met upon first coming to Cardhaven.
Swiftly through her mind the incidents of that first night and morning flashed. She remembered that he had prepared her—as he had prepared his neighbors—for the coming of this wonderful Cap’n Amazon, whose adventures he had related and whose praises he had sung for so many years.
Cap’n Abe had taken advantage of Perry Baker’s coming with Louise’s trunk to send off his own chest, supposedly filled with the clothes he would need on a sea voyage.
Then, the house clear of the expressman and Louise safe in bed, the storekeeper had proceeded to disguise himself as he had long planned to do.
Not content with the shaving of his beard only, he had dyed his hair and the sweeping piratical mustache left him. Walnut juice applied to his face and body had given him the stain of a tropical sun. Of course, this stain and the dye had to be occasionally renewed.
The addition of gold rings in his ears (long before pierced for the purpose, of course) and the wearing of the colored handkerchief to cover his bald crown completed a disguise that his own mother would have found hard to penetrate.
Cap’n Abe was gone; Cap’n Amazon stood in his place.
To befool his niece was a small matter. At daybreak he had come to her door and bidden Louise good-bye. But she had not seen him—only his figure as he walked up the road in the fog. Cap’n Abe had, of course, quickly made a circuit and come back to re-enter the house by the rear door.